Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal Monday welcomed a general court martial verdict sentencing seven Army personnel, including a major general, to life imprisonment for a fake encounter 24 years ago and said it would strengthen people’s faith in the judiciary and the Army.
The court martial looked into the extra-judicial killing of five people after a unit of the Punjab Regiment picked them up along with four others from different places in Tinsukia between February 17-19 in 1994.
Those found guilty are Major General A K Lal, Colonels Thomas Mathew and R S Sibiren and JCOs and NCOs Dilip Singh, Jagdeo Singh, Albindar Singh and Shivendar Singh.
“It is a welcome judgment. The judgment will strengthen people’s faith in judiciary and the Army,” Sonowal told PTI.
He said the verdict, which was delivered Saturday, will be a deterrent to people in authority not to engage in unlawful acts and to behave responsibly and in a fair manner.
The verdict will give solace to the families of the victims, who were innocent students and youths, the chief minister added.
The summary general court martial, held at the 2 Infantry Mountain Division at Dinjan in Dibrugarh district of Assam, held the seven army personnel guilty and sentenced them to life imprisonment.
Sonowal said the judgement is a reflection of India’s democratic values where human rights and fairness are respected.
“The Army has also worked in a fair manner without any prejudice,” he said.
During the 1994 fake encounter at Dangori in Tinsukia district of Assam, Sonowal was president of the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and had sought an impartial probe into the case.
“The long wait of the families for justice has come to an end and I hope the higher authorities will uphold the judgement,” he said.
The verdict will have to be confirmed by the “higher competent authorities” like the Eastern Command in Kolkata and Army Headquarters in New Delhi.
The Army men can file appeals against the verdict before the armed forces tribunal and the Supreme Court.
The Army detained the group of nine at the Dhola Army camp after the general manager of Assam Frontier Tea Limited at Talap Tea Estate, Rameswar Singh, was killed by Ulfa militants.
Five of them were later killed in the infamous Dangori fake encounter case on February 23, 1994. They were Prabin Sonowal, Pradip Dutta, Debajit Biswas, Akhil Sonowal and Bhaben Moran.